If you’ve read this blog for a while or if you’re familiar with my teaching, you might know about a certain quirk of mine. I find myself fascinated by “last words.” When Jesus or Paul or Joshua or someone else in Scripture knows that they’re about to die or otherwise be separated from their audience for a long period of time, I attribute a lot of weight to their last words on that occasion. If you knew you were about to die and only had a few moments to spend with your loved ones, you probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time on the weather and sports. One of my favorite aphorisms is from Samuel Johnson: “The gallows doth wonderfully concentrate the mind.”
This is one of Jesus’ last public appearances before the Passion. The book of John has spent a lot of time on private conversations—more so than the other Gospel writers—but there are some public scenes as well. Most of these are actually confrontations: Jesus is confronting his enemies and/or a generally hostile audience.
Before he left the public eye, he had some final words for them. Here are some of my thoughts.
First, I find it interesting that Jesus says that now is the time for judgment on the Prince of this world. Obviously he’s referring to Satan, who holds the entire world in his sway. But wait a minute—isn’t Satan going to be judged in the future? This is something John has addressed before in his Gospel: According to Jesus, if someone doesn’t believe in him, it’s not an question of that person being judged in the future. They’re condemned now. The verdict is already in—they’re guilty. John the Baptist said that God’s wrath (his righteous anger) remains on that person, not that it will come upon him in the future.
Now to be sure, the consummation of something might be in the future. As Jesus said this, he was yet to be crucified, let alone return in glory. But as far as God was concerned, the Adversary was already defeated. To use a World War 2 analogy, Berlin was already surrounded by the Allies.
I need to make a comment on the “lifted up” phrase. First, I need to concede that a lot of preachers and teachers whom I highly respect disagree with me, and it’s certainly not an essential issue. But I can't escape the conclusion that when people quote Jesus as saying “When I’m lifted up, I’ll draw all people to myself” and pray aloud “We’re lifting you up Jesus, right now. We’re going to praise and honor your name,” they’re yanking the verse out of context. The very next verse says that by saying this Jesus was telling them how he was going to die. He was not referring to being “lifted up” in the sense of being praised or exalted. He was talking about being “lifted up” in the sense of being crucified.
And then we come to what I call the second judgment noted in this passage. Yes, the Prince of the world was being judged. His final fate was completely set. His final defeat was (and is) sure. But Jesus leaves them with a word of warning: Make sure you’re on the right side of the conflict. The Light is going to win over the darkness. To whom to you belong?
And how do you cross over from darkness to light? By believing in the Light of the World. By trusting in him and by submitting to him.
And time was running out. Right here, right now, they have the light. That might not be true tomorrow.
For the children of light (every believer), this is a word of hope: You’re on the right side of history. You’re not on the winning side, you’re on the side that’s already won.
For anyone’s who's not child of the light, I have to lovingly tell you that your time is running out. The Enemy's judgment is as sure as if he was being thrown into the Lake of Fire this very moment. And everyone who hasn't placed their faith in Christ share in his condemnation and thus share in his eternal destiny. But your judgment/condemnation doesn't have to end up like his. His fate doesn't have to be yours. Place your trust in the Lord Jesus, please.
Lord Jesus, it’s so true that apart from you I’m just stumbling around in the dark. Thank you so much that your victory is mine.